I have a new book coming out. It is the shortest book that I have written so far and its subject is one of the largest books ever published. It’s all about the birth and development of a dictionary and the title is: A Concise History of the Oxford English Dictionary.
The actual launch is on March 21st in Oxford, but the book is already available on Amazon as a paper and an eBook. Here’s the link via my bookshop where you can find more details and a sample.
The idea for the book emerged from a tour. Last year I began planning a new Oxford guided walk based on the history of the Dictionary and became so fascinated by the story that I decided to write about it. Of course there are already plenty of books on the subject so why write another? Simple – they are all four course dinners and mine is just a snack. So, just as the concise version of the Dictionary reduces twenty hefty volumes of the second edition to one handy book, my book compresses the story of its development into a slim volume that you can read in an hour or two.
To some the topic might seem rather dry. It is not. What enlivens it is the characters involved and the doggedness shown in continuing with the work over so many years when all seemed doomed. Many of those characters were unpaid volunteers who valiantly sought sources for the many thousands of words that are defined in the Dictionary, making its creation comparable to Wikipedia by post.
I hope that my book will satisfy most people, but if you prefer the four course dinner then there is a comprehensive history coming out later in the year from Oxford University Press. It will cost £40 whereas my little snack costs just £3.99 in paper and £2.99 as an eBook: tasty and cheap, complete with pictures of the main characters involved.